Grass Roots North Carolina / Forum For Firearms Education
Post Office Box 10665, Raleigh, NC 27605
877.282.0939 (Phone) 919.573.0354 (Fax)




Release date: August 31, 2021


‘Gov. Jim Crow’ vetoes purchase permit repeal


Despite Jim Crow origins of NC purchase permit law, 

Gov. Roy Cooper vetoes repeal


[Raleigh] Governor Roy Cooper today vetoed House Bill 398 to repeal North Carolina’s Jim Crow-era pistol purchase permit system.

Filed in March in response to requests from Grass Roots North Carolina, HB 398 would repeal the 1919 purchase permit law which was used to deny guns to blacks in the early 20th Century1, 2, 3 and has recently been abused by some urban sheriffs to obstruct issuance of purchase permits to qualified applicants.

Cooper’s veto comes despite widespread debate over the racist origins of the law which, according to an article in UNC’s North Carolina Law Review, is being used to discriminate against black permit applicants even to this day.2

Cooper also ignored the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association, which testified in support of repeal, stating that improved reporting of mental health information by clerks of court for gun purchase background checks has rendered the permit system “duplicative.”4

“Governor Jim Crow”?

The veto is leading to an increasing number of observers to note that cries of racism by the governor’s party ring false, earning Cooper the sobriquet, in many quarters, of “Governor Jim Crow.”

Said GRNC president Paul Valone:

“By vetoing House Bill 398 to repeal our Jim Crow-era pistol purchase system, Governor Roy Cooper has made it clear he places political posturing above actually taking action to eradicate racism. He has also shown that he doesn’t care about the thousands of North Carolinians who, amid civil unrest and “defund police” measures, have decided to buy guns to defend their families but are being obstructed by urban sheriffs who violate the law by delaying permits.

“Most ironic is Cooper’s claim that he vetoed the bill due to increasing ‘gun violence’ when, in truth, violent crime had been declining for decades until his own party caused urban homicide rates to skyrocket. Grass Roots North Carolina will be doing its dead level best to over-ride Cooper’s veto while showing the people of North Carolina exactly who their governor really is.”


When Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker stopped issuing purchase permits, claiming COVID as rationale, GRNC filed two lawsuits, ultimately resulting in a settlement requiring Baker to issue permits as required by state law which requires permits be issued to qualified applicants within 14 days.

But Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden is also delaying permits for as long as six months, provoking yet another GRNC lawsuit filed in early August. Similar problems are also being reported in Guilford and Buncombe counties.

Under North Carolina law, no citizen can legally purchase a handgun without either a purchase permit or a concealed handgun permit, issuance of which is also being obstructed by the sheriffs in question, effectively denying self-protection to thousands of new gun buyers reacting to national riots and defunding of police departments.

Racist purchase permit history

North Carolina’s purchase permit law was passed in 1919, after Missouri passed a similar law in response to 1917 East St. Louis race riots. Detailing the racist history of gun control, scholars David B. Kopel and Clayton Cramer have written on the racist roots of the North Carolina permit law, with Cramer theorizing that its vague “good moral character” requirement was, like other Jim Crow laws, actually doublespeak for race of the applicant.


Founded in 1994, Grass Roots North Carolina is an all-volunteer 501(c)(4) organization dedicated to preserving individual liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights with emphasis on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.


  1. Kopel, David B., The Samurai, The Mountie, and The Cowboy: Should America Adopt the Gun Controls of Other Democracies? 1992, Cato Institute, Prometheus Books. Pages 337-339 contain excellent documentation of the racist application of gun laws in North Carolina, up to and including the 1960s civil rights movement when Governor Terry Sanford refused to command state police to protect a civil rights march from attacks by the Ku Klux Klan until John Salter, a professor at Tougaloo College and NAACP organizer, warned Sanford that absent police, marchers would be armed for self-defense.
  2. Cramer, Clayton E., “The Racist Roots of Gun Control,” Kansas Journal of Law and Public Policy, Winter, 1995 available at: 
  3. Cramer, Clayton E., “North Carolina's Permit to Purchase Law: The Rumble Seat of Gun Control Laws?” April 4, 2016, Available at SSRN: or 
  4. Nicholas Gallo, “Misfire: How the North Carolina Pistol Purchase Permit System Misses the Mark of Constitutional Muster and Effectiveness,” 99 N.C. L. Rev. 529, 2021, Available at: